Official Chart Flashback 1978: Grease – Summer Nights

Well-uh, well-uh, well-uh. It’s 35 years since John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John took this classic story of summer love to Number 1, selling over 1.6 million copies.

Well-uh, well-uh, well-uh. It’s 35 years since John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John took this classic story of summer love to Number 1, selling over 1.6 million copies.

The trouble with movies is that they end all too quickly. Two hours or so of exhilarating cinematic amazingness and then it’s over, and you have to trudge back to your flat for beans on toast while it rains outside – or is that just us?

One way of hanging on a little longer to that Hollywood glamour is getting your hands on the movie’s soundtrack. While plenty of films have fantastic scores, only musicals have the kind of soundtracks that can sum up the movie even better than quoting dialogue or dressing up as the characters on Halloween.

And when it comes to musicals, there’s only two or three that almost everybody loves and can recite every line of every song, no matter what their age. And the one to beat them all? Why, it’s Grease of course. Grease isn’t just "the word", it’s a heck of a lot of brilliant songs too, and 35 years ago, one of them was at Number 1.

Summer Nights is Grease’s first big number, and while it was officially credited to the movie’s leads John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, it’s very much a group effort. Just about all the ensemble cast gets involved – the ladies grill super-square Sandy about her straitlaced summer romance, while the guys encourage slick-haired studmuffin Danny to add an X-rated tinge to his far from torrid affair.

Even before the first chorus is over, you know you’ve got an instant classic on your hands, and your mums and dads back then seemed to agree. Those flare-sporting record-buyers rushed to music shops in their droves – and no doubt falling over themselves in their huge platform shoes – to buy pretty much everything Grease-related.

1978 really was Grease’s year: no sooner had the film’s other smash hit You’re The One That I Want ended a nine-week (nine!) residency at the top of the Official Singles Chart, than Summer Nights came along for a taste of Number 1 itself.

Watch the performance of Summer Nights from Grease before we reveal how many more hits the iconic movie produced:

Summer Nights spent a very impressive seven weeks at the summit, only to be knocked off its perch by Bob Geldof’s band Boomtown Rats with Rat Trap. But it wasn’t over for the Grease hit factory.

John Travolta made Number 2 with Sandy (at the same time as Summer Nights was out) and reached Number 11 with his infamous T-Birds and the tune Jeremy Clarkson probably sings in the shower – Greased Lightnin’. Olivia Newton-John got her own time to shine, too, enjoying a Number 2 hit with Hopelessly Devoted To You. The movie’s opening song, snappily titled Grease, was a Top 3 hit that summer. Grease was the word on everybody’s lips!

Grease doesn’t just take up room in the hearts and minds of musical lovers everywhere, it’s got two seats in the Official Charts’ million-sellers’ club too. Both Summer Nights and You’re The One That I Want have passed the one-million mark by a long way.

Summer Nights is the 20th best-selling single ever in the UK, with over 1.6 million copies sold, while You’re The One That I Want comes in at an even more incredible fifth, with a sales tally of over 2 million. It’s electrifyin’!

While Summer Nights only got one spin around the charts – apart from showing up in the Grease Megamix, which hit Number 3 in 1990 – You’re The One That I Want has had more than its fair share of chart appearances. While Grease fever was at its height in ‘78, it was covered by veteran comedians Hylda Baker and Arthur Mullard, resulting in one of the most unusual, unforgettable duets ever to hit the Official Singles Chart. (We are being very diplomatic here.) Their version got to Number 22.

It was then covered again by Neighbours star Craig McLachlan and former teen sensation Debbie Gibson, when they starred in a new West End production of Grease in 1993. Their fairly faithful rendition got to Number 13.

And, finally, perhaps a bit put-out at everybody ripping off their song, Olivia and John released the original version again in 1998, to coincide with the movie’s 20th anniversary, and took it all the way to Number 4. Ooh, ooh, ooh, honey!

Watch a clip from Grease featuring You’re The One That I Want:

Want even more of a Grease fix? Check out our blog featuring some of the weird and wonderful Grease covers and tributes out there.